Synthetic stool offers new weapon in fight against C.difficile

Canadian researchers make breakthrough in stool transplant therapy

Manufactured faeces could provide a new lifeline against the healthcare associated infection C.difficile, following a discovery by scientists.

A proof-of-concept trial at Kingston General Hospital in Canada, published in the peer review journal, Microbiome has shown the system, dubbed Re-POOPulate, can cure those who experience chronic C.difficile infections.

The co-authored study was written by researchers from Kingston’s gastrointestinal diseases research unit together with scientists at Queen’s University, Guelph University and the University of Western Ontaria, also in Canada.

Our hope is that this could become an alternative therapy for C.difficile

It would replace the need for human fecal matter to be used in stool transplants, a known treatment that introduces ‘healthy bacteria’ into the gut of patients to help overcome stubborn C.diff infections. This synthetic substitute would help to overcome the ‘ick’ factor often associated with the thought of a fecal transplant, which currently involves removing the bacteria from the stool of a healthy donor, often a relative of the patient. This is usually implanted into infected people using enema infusion, or via enteric-coated capsules.

Dr Elaine Petrof is the report co author and an infectious diseases specialist at Kingston General Hospital

The synthetic stool is made from purified intestinal bacterial cultures grown using the Robo-gut machine housed in Guelph microbiologist and study co-author, Emma Allen-Vercoe’s laboratory.

When tested on patients at Kingston General Hospital who had suffered recurring infections, it was found to relieve symptoms within three days and the patients tested negative for C.diff six months later.

“They responded very well and seem to be completely cured,” said Dr Elaine Petrof, an infectious diseases specialist Kingston General.

She added: “Our hope is that this could become an alternative therapy for C.difficile . It has many benefits, including being safer for patients and medical staff as well as being easily and quickly reproduced based on a patient’s needs.”

Further clinical trials will now be set up to test the therapy and gain regulatory approval.

It has many benefits, including being safer for patients and medical staff as well as being easily and quickly reproduced based on a patient’s needs

The breakthrough comes at a time when MRSA outbreaks are on the decline, but many hospitals in the UK are reporting an increase in C.difficile infection. This is partly being blamed on a new strain of the bug that is proving harder to treat with antibiotics.

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